war, part one

by mraynes

cross posted at the exponent.

i was seven months pregnant in october of 2010 when my midwife alerted me to the fact that my chosen post-pregnancy method of birth control, a copper iud, might not be available. a proposed amendment to the state of colorado’s constitution, known as the colorado fetal personhood amendment, was seeking to codify the rights of the unborn at the moment of conception. this meant that if amendment 62 was passed, IUDs and many forms of hormonal birth control would no longer be available in the state of colorado for fear that they would prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus. my baby was due around the first of the new year and in waiting the required six weeks post-partum, the personhood amendment would go into effect and I would no longer be able to get an IUD.

To say that I was shocked and angry at this news would be an understatement. The Personhood Amendment had already been defeated by the people of Colorado in 2008 and yet the backers of this initiative had the hubris to believe that they knew better than the electorate and that they had the right to make women’s reproductive choices.

To even think of this time makes me sputter with rage. It wasn’t enough for these people to just not use those forms of birth control, they actively sought to take away my right to make medical choices regarding my own body. I was not incompetent or incapable of making choices in my best interest–indeed, I was profoundly aware that without reliable birth control my well-being and that of my children would be at serious risk. I had just emerged from a major depressive episode where I had wished for death daily, only to find myself unexpectedly pregnant. I was taking precautions not to relapse after the baby was born and the last thing I needed was the added stress of facing a sexless marriage.

I’m not being overly dramatic here, if Amendment 62 had passed my birth control options would have been reduced to barrier methods and natural family planning. I have a thyroid condition which makes tracking my cycle nearly impossible and the failure of both condoms and a diaphragm  is why I had an unexpected pregnancy. I had just started a graduate program and was desperately trying to repair the damage done to the relationship with my children and my marriage (one of many reasons why a sexless marriage was unthinkable) that was caused by my depression. I had accepted the addition of an unexpected baby but I knew that another unplanned pregnancy would send me over the edge.

But those who support policies like the Personhood Amendment don’t care about individual circumstances. They don’t care about medical realities. They don’t care about a woman’s quality of life. They believe that protecting even the remotest possibility of life is more important than all of the collateral damage it does to those lives already in existence. Thankfully Amendment 62 was soundly defeated a second time by the citizens of Colorado and I was able to get my IUD.  I have maintained my mental health, almost finished a Master’s Degree and have become a better wife and mother–all because I know that if I get pregnant again it will be on my own terms.

I was watching Meet the Press yesterday morning where some male pundit argued that the term “war on women” is overblown and irresponsible political rhetoric. Such an argument is the privilege of those who have full control over their bodies. Had the Fetal Personhood Amendment passed in my state I would not have had full control over my body and I can tell you, that felt like an attack. I felt like my very life was being threatend.

I am haunted by those few weeks in October 2010 where I experienced the fear of living in a society where women have no control over their reproduction. There are dire consequences to the debate over women’s reproductive freedom and the resulting policies and legislation which restrict it. I will explore those consequences more in part two but today I want to add my voice to the thousands that say my right to bodily autonomy is not up for debate. This war is personal to me.